New Generation Health Center Newsletter | Summer 2012
Every year, New Generation Health Center hosts 2 aspiring health professionals as Community Health Corps volunteers. The relationship between and the clinic and Community Health Corps (a division of public service program Americorps) is a symbiotic one; New Generation gets two excited staff members, while volunteers get extensive training and direct experience with patients. You can see current members Mei-lani Bixby and Christa Morris scurrying around the clinic, counseling patients on birth control and STDs as Health Educators, preparing curriculum for sex ed classes at nearby high schools, or working on their new social media outreach campaign. Unfortunately for NGHC, both Mei-Lani and Christa will have completed their service in December of this year. On the flip side, NGHC has two new AmeriCorps who have just begun, Barbara and Angela. Stayed tuned for the winter newsletter to learn more about them.
We asked our interns to share some information about themselves and their experiences at New Generation Health Center.
Why did you join the AmeriCorps program?
Mei-Lani Bixby: I was looking for a way to live life out of a book to figure out what to do with my career. Americorps offers me a way to work with the underserved in a field I was interested in. More than other internships and programs, it also allows me to explore other clinics and careers while furthering my education.
Christa Morris: Soon after graduating college I started thinking about becoming a doctor; it seems like the perfect combination of my love of biology and, more importantly, my desire to work face-to-face with people every day. Before committing to medical school, I wanted to work in a clinic and see the complexities of working with a high-risk teen population. Americorps is one of the only programs where you can get involved in medicine right out of undergrad. Not only do we get training in medical assisting, health education and counseling, we are given the responsibility to make use of those skills. The network of Community Health Corps is also fantastic; we are connected with a larger group of clinics and volunteers where we go for further trainings and team days.
Why did you choose your placement at New Generation Health Center?
Mei-Lani Bixby: After my undergrad, I knew I wanted to work with young women's empowerment, reproductive health, and with an underserved population. A friend told me about the position at New Generation Health Center and it was a perfect fit! I really lucked out.
Christa Morris: I feel incredibly lucky to have been placed at New Generation. I was excited about it from the start because I’ve always wanted to work with teens and feel that, given my own experiences, there is always a great need for non-judgemental, youth-friendly reproductive health care. I love how the staff and clinicians see patients as whole people, not just symptoms or test results. We’re trained to ask the difficult questions, about relationships and school and family life, and listen openly to the needs of our patients.
What are the biggest issues for youth?
Mei-Lani Bixby: For youth, the biggest issues evolve from the fear the adults in their lives have. Either their parents or schools don't feel comfortable talking about sexual health and teens are left in the dark. Teens want to care for themselves - they just need to know how. One of the great things about New Generation is that we level with our patients. We talk to them from the heart and understand where they are coming from. From there, we can build friendships that are supportive and educational for our youth and for ourselves.
Christa Morris: Being a teenager is so difficult! So many teens are not given the support to believe in their instincts and intelligence, or the resources to make the decisions they want to make. When a girl comes in and tells me that she doesn't use condoms because her boyfriend makes her feel guilty for not wanting to get pregnant, I think the most important things for me to do are, first, give her a huge bag of condoms, and then tell her that she is a valuable, strong person and needs to trust herself. Feeling like you deserve to be healthy and happy is not just about avoiding STDs, but about being a successful, empowered person. There is so much negative feedback given to young men and women, it's not a surprise how much of a struggle those years are.
What do you hope to take away from your experience here?
Mei-Lani Bixby: I've only been here for about three months and feel like I received more education about how to serve in the medical field than I did in my undergrad. I'm hoping my time here at New Generation will help illuminate for me how I would like to work with youth and in what capacity. I had been teetering between osteopathic medicine and public health, but now becoming a nurse practitioner seems like it could be a way for me to develop a strong relationship with patients sustained by trust, broadened with a holistic approach, and deepened with education.
Christa Morris: Of course there are all the basics that I’m hoping to learn; how a clinic is run, how to address reproductive health issues in a difficult community, how to diagnose and treat STDs. But what I’m most excited about are the interpersonal skills I am developing. Through my experience as a health educator, I hope to learn how to be as supportive and open as the clinicians are here, allowing patients to discuss the issues that are really putting their health at risk or keeping them from their potential.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your experiences at NGHC?
Mei-Lani Bixby: The staff here at New Generation is unbelievable. We work like a family with a lot of cooperation and communication. I think this attitude transcends to our patients who feel like they can talk freely here.
Christa Morris: Working with teens is endlessly inspiring. I wake up excited to go to work, and I get out of work buzzing with new ideas and difficult emotions. It’s a different sort of challenge than I’ve been used to during 16 years of schooling; instead of thinking and solving problems on paper, it’s about connecting with people and solving problems in real time.
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